I had convinced myself that Viva Pinata was going to slowly fade away after Party Animals, a minigame collection that I managed to completely avoid, came and went extremely quickly. So I was pretty excited to see word of a true sequel to the original game. That game, known as Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise, looks like it’s taking everything from the first game, adding a bunch of new stuff, streamlining some things, and delivering more of the same occasionally-stressful garden building action.
But if the stress of maintaining a garden, attracting pinatas, and keeping sour, evil creatures out of your space is too much to take, the sequel has a new “fun mode” that removes all of the obstacles and progression. So you can just fill your garden with anything you want. It seems like it’s designed for kids, though anyone who wants to just relax and watch pinatas interact (and who doesn’t?) would probably be into this mode.
All of the existing pinatas from the first game will return, and they’ll be joined by 30 new species, making for over 100 total species. A lot of the interactions between the different pinatas have been changed up to account for the new species, and mating requirements have also changed. The romance maze has been switched up with the new option of a closer camera angle, and hearts that can be collected to increase the chance of twins or a wildcard bonus.
One of the things that made me crazy when I would play the original game for hours at a time was all the trips to the menus and shops, each of which kicked off a brief loading time. This has been streamlined in the new game with new tools that prevent you from having to visit the store as frequently. A seed bag lets you buy and plant seeds directly from your garden. A fertilizer bag lets you do the same with fertilizer. I’m a grown man excitedly talking about a seed bag that lets me plant virtual seeds in my virtual garden filled with pinatas. STOP LOOKING AT ME!!!!!
Sorry, sometimes I get all self-conscious when it comes to Viva Pinata. Anyway…
If you’re into the whole co-op thing, a second player can jump into your garden at any time. While the first player still has control of the budget and all the meaningful stuff, the additional player gets slightly better tools and, if the player performs good deeds, more upgrades become available. The game will also have new Xbox Live features, but the developers on-hand to discuss the game with the media weren’t talking.
There will be a lot of new objects to place in your gardens, like spooky item sets, or a space item set that will let you buy UFOs and the like. In addition to planting grass, you can also lay out sand and snow. Having a snowy garden makes you susceptible to blizzards, rather than rain. You can plant down tracks for trains, and if bird-type pinatas land on your train and ride it around, they’ll become more valuable. Pinatas can also do tricks under certain circumstances, and a new “trick stick” tool lets you coax your pinatas into performing tricks more frequently.
Trouble in Paradise also makes use of the Xbox Live Vision camera in a pretty interesting way. Much like Sony’s Eye of Judgment, you can hold up cards with special barcode-like markings on them to scan objects into the game. A collection of pinata cards were on-hand, and sure enough, holding them up to the camera dropped said pinata directly into the garden. But cards can have different uses, like advancing time, or changing the weather.
The catch is that these cards aren’t coming to a retailer near you. They’re not for sale. Instead, you can make them yourself using an in-game camera. So you can snap a picture of your best pinata and upload it to the game’s website. From there, the site will add the proper markings to make the image scannable. From there, it’s up to you. You can print it out and pass it out to friends, or you could even put it onto an iPod or a Zune and hold those up to the camera for a scan, according to Rare. Not to get all preachy, but it’s kind of awesome to see a blatant-looking opportunity for additional revenue streams being turned into a potentially rad and free community feature.
While the first game had a rough story, the sequel will attempt to give you more of a concrete goal. It seems that the pinata computer records have been destroyed, and by breeding new ones and sending them off to parties, you’re slowly regenerating the records.
I don’t care what you think of me. I am crazy excited that there’s a new Viva Pinata game coming out this September, and so far, it looks like it’ll be better than the original.